PS2J 307 News – Ransomware Quality Control

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Melbits World

      • 2018
      • Co-op puzzle platformer where you team up and use your phone as your controller to guide your characters through challenging, intricate levels
    • Kunai

      • 2020
      • Billed as a quirky, fast-paced action platformer, you play as Tabby, a tablet who joins the fight against a robot uprising using his kunai and ninja-parkour
    • Dear Esther: Landmark Edition

      • 2017 remaster first released in 2008 as a free-to-play mod for the Source engine, then later redeveloped into a commercial release in 2012
      • First person exploration and adventure game that is considered to have started the “walking simulator” genre, it has you exploring an unnamed island in Scotland, listening to a troubled man read a series of letters to his deceased wife
    • Dark Devotion

      • 2019
      • Action adventure game where you explore the secrets of a mysterious fallen temple and put your Templar’s faith to the test
    • Turok 2: Seeds of Evil

      • 1998
      • First person shooter originally released on the N64, it follows Turok’s efforts to stop a powerful alien entity from escaping the confines of his Lightship
    • Reus

      • 2013
      • God game where you control giants that can modify the nature of the planet through terraforming, creating life, and altering genes
    • GRIP: Combat Racing

      • 2018
      • Originally a Kickstarter campaign that I backed in 2015, it raised $154K of its $657K goal before it was taken down, but it was still announced to be pushed into early access
      • High octane hardcore combat racer inspired by Rollcage, Wipeout, Motostorm, and Podracer with gravity-defying twists and heavy weaponry
  • Xbox

    • WRC 8 World Rally Championship

      • 2019
      • The official game of the 2019 World Rally Championship, it’s a simulation rally racing game with new physics for all surfaces and a redesigned career mode
    • Saints Row 2

      • 2008
      • Sandbox action-adventure game that has you leading the Third Street Saints gang against three rivals and the corrupt Ultor Corporation, with a more comedic tone to set the game apart from Grand Theft Auto
  • PS4

    • NBA 2k20

      • 2019
      • Basketball simulation game featuring current and past players and teams, along with up to six custom expansion teams and the ability to relocate and rebrand any time
      • It also included, for the first time, all 12 teams from the WNBA, though they can only be played in one-game exhibition and single-season modes, and the game drew criticism for its gambling-based minigames that overshadowed the basketball in early trailers
    • Rise Of The Tomb Raider – 20 Year Celebration

      • 2016 update to the 2015 release, with updates including coop play and classic outfits as well as combat-free exploration and zombie modes
      • Action-adventure sequel to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, it has standard ruins exploration and bowplay but this time set in Siberia
    • Erica

      • Bonus for the 10th anniversary of PS Plus
      • 2019
      • Live-action interactive adventure thriller with multiple endings that feels Heavy Rain-esque, putting you in the role of Erica, a brave young lady who is plagued with nightmares of her father’s murder and has to unearth the truth behind the tragedy
  • Epic Games

    • Hue

      • 2016
      • Puzzle platformer where you explore a grey land while searching for your missing mother, and along the way you uncover coloured pieces that reveal new puzzles. The more colours you find, the more complex the puzzles become

Co-Founder of Cards Against Humanity Max Temkin has stepped down following accusations of racist and sexist office culture (courtesy of Polygon)

  • For anyone unaware, it’s like a lewd version of Apples to Apples with references to politics, pop culture, sex, and so on
  • It started as a DIY print your own game distributed for free, but after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign it became the focus of a multi-million dollar game company
  • In the past few weeks multiple former employees have shared stories of racist and sexist behaviours that largely affected Black employees, as well as some accusations of sexual assault by Temkin
  • Many people reporting these behaviours remained anonymous due to fear of retaliation, and that seems to have been well founded after several employees described being fired for confusing or unexpected reasons after raising concerns about discrimination at work
  • Cards Against Humanity’s official response is that “some of these accounts are true, others are not, and a few we are continuing to investigate”
  • It seems almost inevitable that a company trading on humour powered by shock and racial stereotypes, like all the variations on “A big, black dick” that exist in the game, would have some problems, but though they’ve tried to increase sensitivity and remove some cards deemed offensive, there are still many packs being sold today that include cards that marginalize vulnerable groups of people
  • There have also been stories shared from the writer’s room about how the head writers like Temkin would push for the inclusion of cards like “Saying the N-word”, despite the protests of the one Black employee on the team
  • A spokesperson pointed Polygon to 14 cards, out of the hundreds available for the game, that “reflect Black culture, history, and perspectives”. In a follow-up they clarified that the game has “well over 100” cards that do that, and the examples were merely a favourite sampling, but the gesture reeks of “I’m not racist, I have a Black friend”
  • Many former employees described their departure from the company as “escaping”, and since there was no real HR department to speak of they felt unheard and powerless even after leaving, for fear of lawsuits and reprisals. The Chief Operating Officer was the sole HR department, and was also in charge of finance, operations, and legal. His close working relationship with Temkin led to concerns about bringing issues forward.
  • Apparently Cards Against Humanity is hiring an independent third-party HR consultant to audit and improve its practices, but from the sounds of it a lot of damage has been done to a lot of lives
  • Former employees also spoke of Temkin yelling at employees, and said that people on staff often spoke on Slack about the most private places to cry after encounters with him, and that he exerted undue influence over not only people’s livelihood but also their personal lives- in one case, Temkin decided that an employee would have to stop seeing someone or they would get “kicked out”
  • And all of this from a company that has opposed Trump, donated money to charity, and given scholarships to women in STEM programs has left many with whiplash after experiencing what the company culture was like internally
  • As of June 9th Temkin has stepped down from the company and will have no staff interactions, and though he maintains 1/8th of the company’s shares he will not receive a salary.
  • With these reports becoming public and the employees gaining courage and support they’ve established the Cards Against Humanity Workers United union and begun to demand recognition from the company’s owners, looking to establish better collaboration and transparency between workers and management after the trust has been eroded so thoroughly already
  • In a statement provided to Polygon, the company’s leadership says that it intends to recognize the union, and that if the majority of their employees want a union they’re all for it

Reddit has officially, finally, banned the “The_Donald” subreddit

  • The ban was part of the site’s overhaul of its hate speech policies, and will affect the more than 790,000 users that used it to post memes, videos, and messages supportive of Trump
  • This came down because of the group’s consistent breaking of its rules by allowing people to target and harass others with hate speech
  • Reddit’s chief executive, Steve Huffman said “Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people. ‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that”
  • At the same time, Twitch temporarily banned Trump from the service for hateful conduct, for things like video of his kickoff rally where he claimed that Mexico was sending rapists to the US
    • Twitch has apparently begun issuing permanent bans to other streamers because of hate speech, with long-time popular streamer Dr Disrespect receiving one without specific details on why
    • It sounds like Twitch is taking moderation a lot more seriously, and not just allowing racist or hateful language just because it’s newsworthy due to its source
  • In the words of the Daring Fireball, “It’s a race to get out of Dodge as the whole world gets its footing back on the rightful notion that bigotry is shameful and must be shunned.”

Warning to all pirates running macOS, there’s a new ransomware making the rounds

  • The new EvilQuest ransomware variant is being spread through pirated Mac apps, according to Malwarebytes, and was initially found in a download for Little Snitch found on a Russion forum
  • The infected installation does install Little Snitch, a tool for monitoring network traffic on your computer, but also moves and installs files throughout your system to encrypt both system and personal files on your computer before prompting for a $50USD ransom
    • The malware apparently doesn’t work very well though, as the ransom instructions are often not displayed properly and you don’t actually get your files back if you pay it
  • Malwarebytes says their software can remove the infection, but any encrypted files will need to be restored from backups

Clone High is coming back!?!

  • For the multitude that missed it the first time around, it was an animated series about the teenage clones of historical figures going to high school together, that worked as an out-loud parody of teen soaps like Dawson’s Creek with things like every episode opening with “Tonight, on a very special episode of Clone High…”
  • It was cancelled after one season due in part to its depiction of the clone of Mahatma Ghandi and controversy outside of North America. Even the DVD release never made it outside of Canada
  • Well apparently Clone High’s creators went on to make a few films like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, and Spider-Verse
  • So it seems like now that they’ve got some pull after a few hits, they’re bringing the show into the era of Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, and 13 Reasons Why, so maybe we’ll finally get some closure to the first season’s cliffhanger two decades later. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with this

Tidbits

  • Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa has officially apologized for the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift issue, saying “Regarding the Joy-Con, we apologize for any trouble caused to our customers. We are continuing to aim to improve our products, but as the Joy-Con is the subject of a class-action lawsuit in the United States and this is still a pending issue, we would like to refrain from responding about any specific actions.”
    • Nintendo began offering free repairs for controllers afflicted with drift shortly after the lawsuit was filed, but with its built-in controllers the Switch Lite was also added to the class action suit a week after its September launch
  • Microsoft has updated their enforcement guidlelines for Forza Motorsport, banning players using the custom design feature to put confederate flags or swastikas on their cars
    • Some have raised issues with this, complaining that iconic cars like the Dukes of Hazard’s General Lee had nothing to do with race and featured a large depiction of the flag on its back, but just because an unproblematic show used the flag doesn’t mean it’s not a problematic symbol itself
    • Even the General Lee car itself, owned by pro golfer Bubba Watson, had its flags removed in 2015
  • According to rumours, Apple may be removing the charger and EarPods from new iPhone boxes, leaving just the phone and a USB cord
    • The switch would allow them to reduce packaging and waste, and for many long-time iPhone users it wouldn’t be a large issue, but it seems like the option should still be there to make sure you have everything you need if you’re buying for the first time
    • One idea I’ve seem on reddit is to either have two different versions, which could get confusing, or include a coupon for the value of the charger inside the box. Then you can get one for free or use the savings on another Apple device, though it’s still an additional step
  • Now through July 10th Apple is giving you an extra 10% bonus when adding funds to your AppleID
    • On your phone you can go to Settings, tap on your name, iTunes & App Store, tap on your AppleID, View AppleID, then tap Add Funds to Apple ID
  • After taking fire for reading iPhone clipboards every time users type a single character into the app, TikTok has promised to release an update to stop reading that information from devices
    • iOS 14 beta shows a notification each time an app reads your clipboard and so this was really highlighted in TikTok, but it’s also behaviour being seen in other apps like AccuWeather, Overstock, AliExpress, Call of Duty Mobile, Patreon, and Google News
    • TikTok claims it’s part of an anti-spam feature and they don’t actually read what you may have copied from another app, but there’s no way to verify that. With it being a Chinese company whose algorithm is a complete black box, you can assume that they’ve stored copies of whatever you had on your clipboard while using the app
  • Microsoft is officially shutting down their physical stores worldwide, except for four specific locations in the US, England, and Australia that will become “experience centers” that no longer sell products
    • The stores were originally inspired by Apple Stores both in concept and execution, but failed to really get a foothold in the market
    • verynicewebsite.net put it well – “I do enjoy their PR headline: “Microsoft Store announces new approach to retail.” The new approach: not doing retail.”

 

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PS2J 304 News – eScooters-19

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

      • 2014
      • Puzzle platforming game where, in a Labyrinth-esque plot, Max accidentally sends his little brother away with a magic spell he finds online and has to go rescue him
    • >observer_

      • 2017
      • First-person psychological horror game following a detective that can hack people’s minds as a form of interrogation
    • Project Warlock

      • 2018
      • First-person shooter that takes inspiration from games like Blood, Doom, and Heretic, featuring non-linear levels, keys, power-ups, and secret areas as well as some light RPG mechanics
    • Forsaken Remastered

      • 2018 remaster of the 1998 release
      • Single or multiplayer first-person shooter that has you playing a mercenary looting the post-apocalyptic husk of Earth
    • Dream Daddy

      • 2017
      • Visual novel developed by Game Grumps where you can choose between seven different fathers to date, with a customizable appearance and multiple endings
    • The Flame in the Flood

      • 2016
      • Roguelike survival adventure game where you play a young girl using a raft to navigate an apocalyptic flood that has turned the world into a series of islands
    • Steel Rats

      • 2018
      • Touted as a ground-breaking evolution of the 2.5D action arcade genre, it puts you into a retro-futuristic world with a wide array of skills and physics-based motorcycle combat
  • Epic Games

    • ARK: Survival Evolved

      • 2017 release of the 2014 early-access title
      • Action adventure open world survival game that has you using firearms and improvised crafted weapons to defend yourself and your base against hostile humans and creatures
    • Samurai Shodown Neogeo Collection

      • 2020
      • The classic weapon-based 2D fighting games known to its fans as SamSho
      • SAMURAI SHODOWN was originally released on the NEOGEO in 1993, followed by its sequel SAMURAI SHODOWN II in 1994. The series became a trilogy in 1995 with SAMURAI SHODOWN III, followed soon after SAMURAI SHODOWN IV AMAKUSA’S REVENGE released in 1996. Seven years later the series returned with 2003’s SAMURAI SHODOWN V, and SAMURAI SHODOWN V SPECIAL released the following year on the NEOGEO… The new SAMURAI SHODOWN NEOGEO COLLECTION also includes a title never before released to the public. SAMURAI SHODOWN V PERFECT is a mysterious final version of SAMURAI SHODOWN V SPECIAL.
      • Also includes online fights and a museum mode with over 2,000 development documents and images, and hours of interviews with the developers
  • As part of the Black Lives Matter movement, itch.io has released the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, looking to raise $5M in an even split between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Community Bail Fund

    • Over 1500 different works from almost 1200 creators, worth thousands of dollars, all for a minimum donation of $5 USD
    • Includes popular games like Nuclear Throne, Night in the Woods, A Short Hike, Minit, and Celeste
    • Also has a lot of other things like comics,  assets you can use to make your own games, tabletop RPG or LARP rulesets and scenarios, and more
    • It’s enough content that they actually updated their game library pages to include a search function, since anyone that buys it will immediately have a very full library

BLM Updates from the tech and gaming world

  • Infinity Ward updated the Modern Warfare and Warzone loading screens to show a message in support of Black Lives Matter
    • This has led to some complaining about getting politics shoved in their face, but as KingOfTheYetis said on reddit “My feeling on it is that if this screen bothers you, then you’re the problem.”
    • They’ve also made an official statement saying there is no place for racist content in their game, and they’re adding additional resources to monitor, ID, and ban racist content
  • John Boyega, the actor who plays Finn in the latest Star Wars trilogy, made an excellent speech that was captured online and quoted by the official Star Wars Twitter account, calling for an end to racism and reminding us that black lives have always mattered
    • Some on Twitter pointed out the hypocrisy though, after Disney edited the The Force Awakens movie posters in China to make him smaller than BB-8
  • Rockstar Games shut down access to Grand Theft Auto Online and Red Dead Online for two hours on June 4th to honour the legacy of George Floyd during his memorial service
  • Tim Cook released a statement on Apple.com titled ‘Speaking up on racism’, calling on everyone to look past a return to comfortable normalcy and aim for a higher future that lives up to the ideals of equality and justice
    • They’ve also put their money where their mouth is, or at least a very small fraction of it, with their new Racial Equity and Justice Initiative backed by a $100M commitment
  • Many music and streaming services around the world went dark for Black Out Tuesday on June 2nd, with Apple music calling on everyone to speak and act out against racism and injustice of all kinds
  • Sony delayed their PlayStation 5 event that was scheduled for June 4th, saying they didn’t feel that it was the time for a celebration, and that they wanted to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard

Sony’s livestreaming PlayStation 5 announcements today, and we’ve got some highlights

  • We’ll be seeing a sequel to the wildly popular Marvel’s Spider-Man on the new console, starring Miles Morales from Ultimate Spider-Man and Into the Spider-Verse
  • Gran Turismo 7 will bring us more shiny cars, beautiful landscapes, and an interesting new campaign mode that lets players unlock and customize cars by winning races
  • An expanded and enhanced Grand Theft Auto 5 will hit sometime in 2021, bringing the 6.5 year old title to yet another generation
  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will have the titular duo transported through multiple dimensions with full detailed game worlds loading instantly
  • Returnal is a sci-fi third person shooter where you play a pilot stranded on a mysterious world where, somehow, each time she dies she resurrects but somehow changed
  • Square Enix showed off the very pretty Project Athia, which we don’t have much detail on but is from the studio that worked on Final Fantasy 15
  • Stray is finally bringing us the full release of what was previously known as HK Project, a cat adventure game with you wandering a city as an actual housecat that I’ve been following updates since 2015
  • Another Little Big Planet title is on its way, called Sackboy: A Big Adventure, with full 3D movement and a ton of new gameplay mechanics
  • Oddworld is back with a return to its cinematic 2D platforming roots in Oddworld Soulstorm
  • Ghostwire: Tokyo looks like a first-person action adventure game from the developers of The Evil Within that has you saving the city from all sorts of yokai from Japanese mythology
  • Demon’s Souls, the original Soulsborne game from 2009 that spawned Dark Souls and Bloodborne, is getting a fancy new remake for the PS5
  • Deathloop has you playing as a Dishonored-style assassin stuck on an island filled with people trying to kill you over and over, and you need to break out of the time loop by killing the 8 bosses before midnight
  • Horizon Forbidden West is bringing us back to the world of Aloy from Zero Dawn, and it looks like a lot of fun. It might finally motivate me to play the first one
  • And the PS5 itself was shown off, and it’s pretty… well, pretty. They’ve kind of gone the opposite way from Microsoft- the Xbox Series X is like a blank computer tower or other appliance, whereas the PS5 has white curves holding a tall, thin black rectangle, kind of reminiscent of an awards trophy
    • Also has two versions, one with and one without the 4K bluray drive
    • The one without looks a lot smoother and sleeker, but I have a bunch of PS4 discs still laying around that I wouldn’t mind being able to continue playing, so it’s a tricky choice
  • The console itself will be launching this holiday season, and the games they showed will be coming in the next year or two

There’s a $5B lawsuit in the mix accusing Google of violating US federal wiretap laws by tracking the activities of users in Incognito mode

  • The class action argues that Google is surreptitiously gathering info about what people view online and where they browse while in Incognito, and deceiving customers into believing that they’re controlling what information is shared
  • A Google spokesperson said that Incognito mode isn’t built for that, but rather to prevent activity from being saved to your browser or device. “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity.”
  • Some may have thought that Google themselves wouldn’t be one of those websites, but considering their business model for many years has been in large part giving away services for free and monetizing usage data, if people don’t want to be tracked they might have to try a little harder
  • The plaintiffs say the lawsuit likely covers millions of Google users who, since June 2016, have browsed the internet using Incognito mode. So with the class action seeking $5,000 each in damages for violation of wiretapping and privacy laws, the lawsuit will amount to at least $5B

Tidbits

  • eScooters from Lime and Bird are back in Edmonton, and their COVID-19 precautions seem to be putting everything on the riders
    • While they mention cleaning them when they’re put out, they’re expecting people using the scooters to use hand sanitizer before and after riding, and also mention that people should wear masks when out and about
  • Apple has recently been awarded a patent for “synthetic selfies”, allowing people to coordinate a live composite shot of multiple people that aren’t physically near each other
    • Apparently they applied for the patent back in 2018, but this is some pretty solid timing for a feature like this
  • According to the latest leaks, the upcoming iOS 14 expected to be announced this month at WWDC 2020 will be compatible with all devices currently running iOS 13, including the 5 year old iPhone 6S
  • Trump has signed a new executive order aimed at social media and how they police content, with many asking if what he’s doing is even legal
    • The new directive is looking to change a federal law that has prevented tech companies from being sued or held liable for most posts, photos, and videos shared by users on their sites
    • This was, of course, soon after Twitter called out the US president for making false and inflammatory statements about mail-in voting
    • It’s not all black and white though, as changing this law could also impact third-party counterfeit items sold on Amazon and force Uber to be responsible for sexual assaults that take place in the company’s rides
  • Zoom is developing a new end-to-end encryption service, but only for their corporate clients
    • According to CEO Eric Yuan “Free users for sure we don’t want to give that because we also want to work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose”
  • A quick reminder, I’m still keeping my eye on ABTraceTogether and once they start using the proper exposure notification tech I’ll start using the contact tracing app and let everyone know

Upload on Amazon Prime

  • A sci-fi comedy series created by Greg Daniels, of The Office and Parks and Rec, that feels like Black Mirror meets The Good Place
  • Futuristic time when you can choose to have your consciousness uploaded to the one of a number of proprietary afterlives before you die, combining life after death with some good old fashioned capitalistic dystopia
  • Solid series, with good writing and pacing, though it sometimes feels like the writing team couldn’t decide on how to best use some of their story beats
  • The first season is definitely worth checking out, and another one is already on the books.

 

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PS2J 301 News – The Boy Who Cired YouTube

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Anna’s Quest

      • 2015
      • Point-and-click adventure game following Anna as she attempts to escape an evil witch and save her dying grandfather by solving puzzles, collecting items, and talking to characters throughout the game
  • Epic Games

    • Grand Theft Auto 5

      • 2013
      • Action-adventure sandbox game by Rockstar following three criminals and their efforts to commit heists while under pressure from a government agency and powerful crime figures
      • It quickly became the highest selling entertainment product in history, earning $1B in its first three days, and still consistently sits on Steam’s list of most popular games
      • So popular that it’s singlehandedly taken down the Epic Games Store website, even causing issues with the Epic Games launcher and Fortnite
        • As of recording the site is still down

Utah’s joined the contact tracing game with their new Healthy Together app, aimed at letting people know if they’ve come into contact with someone later diagnosed with COVID-19

  • Unfortunately they decided not to use Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification API, and instead opted for a less private GPS and Bluetooth option
  • According to the Utah state website, they opted to use their own framework because they say Bluetooth alone “gives a less accurate picture” than the combination of Bluetooth and GPS
    • I can get how the extra location information could assist in identifying transmission areas, but at the end of the day this is a government app that logs not only who you’re in contact with but also everywhere you go
    • It’s also another case of needing to have the app open and active at all times on a iPhone in order to fully function, which can not only affect battery performance but also the overall longevity of your device
  • At the moment about 45,000 people have signed up for Healthy Together, amounting to about 2% of the state’s population, and some estimates have shown that in order to be effective the apps will need to be used by 60%.
    • Hopefully once the more secure and efficient apps come onto the market we’ll start to see the numbers rise

We’re seeing another dark side to the wild west that is exposure notification- spam and phishing attacks

  • Police in Maine are warning cell phone users of a text message scam in which people are sending things like
    • “Someone who came into contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested. More at <link>”
    • These are not official messages and are doing nothing but spread panic and, depending on where the link is pointed, could give hackers a way in to get your personal information
  • The Better Business Bureau has also said that scammers are targeting seniors with messages posing as the US Department of Health and telling them they need to take a mandatory online COVID-19 test to receive their recently approved government stimulus payment
  • It’s tough to say exactly how to tell the scam messages from real ones, but one giveaway is if you aren’t running a contact tracing app then the government has no way to identify that you’ve been exposed, never mind text you about it
  • Once tracing apps start using the Apple/Google exposure notification features I think we’ll be in much better shape, as you’ll see proper system notifications from trusted government apps rather than a hodgepodge of whatever your area has put together themselves

Epic Games has unveiled the new Unreal Engine 5, and it’s very pretty

  • Unreal Engine is a game engine used by the developers of a lot of high-profile games from Yoshi’s Crafted World to the Batman: Arkham titles and Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • The new engine focuses on photorealism on par with movie CG and live-action video, and there’s a very pretty demo video online of it running on developer PS5 hardware
  • The coolest thing is that it’s not just for next-gen- the engine will support current consoles, computers, and even iOS and Android
  • As part of the same announcement Epic has also changed how its royalties work regarding use of the engine, retroactively taking 5% of sales only after a game has earned its first $1M in sales. And that 5% is waived for games published on the Epic Games Store
    • On top of that, any Oculus-exclusive games made with Unreal don’t start paying until they hit $5M in sales
    • So you can get access to triple-A game development tools for free and only start paying royalties if your game is a big success. Pretty solid deal!

Wink, a company that makes a smart home hub that links different smart home devices together, has decided to switch from a purchase model to subscriptions and completely screw over their current users

  • Previously Wink would work like most other smart home devices, you buy it once, set it up, and it works with no additional costs
  • Now, 5 years in, they’ve decided that hardware sales don’t cover their costs and you need to pay $5/month to continue using hardware you own
    • Even if you don’t use their cloud services, your access to the app, voice control, API, and automations all get deactivated if you don’t pay their ransom
    • Part of their justification is that they don’t make any extra money by selling your information, like other platforms might, but that’s less of a bonus and more of an essential feature
  • In response to backlash they went from a one-week notice period to two weeks, allowing an extra 7 days before users start being charged the monthly fee
  • I could see it if they introduced new devices reliant on a subscription, or maybe if they had a buy-back program for people that don’t want to subscribe and therefore no longer have any use for the product, but nothing like that has been announced
  • This seems like a fairly customer-hostile move, and I’ll be surprised if Wink manages to move forward without introducing something to justify the added cost

Apple has started reopening its retail stores and some of the safety measures it’s taking may violate EU privacy rules

  • One of the measures Apple’s taking to protect everyone includes temperature checks before customers are allowed to enter, using a non-contact forehead thermometer
  • However a data protection agency in Germany is concerned those checks violate EU privacy and data protection rules and has launched a probe, according to Bloomberg Law
  • Assuming they’re not storing the data or linking it to people in any way, I’m guessing this won’t amount to anything. It sounds comparable to nightclubs checking ID before allowing people to enter

New Paper Mario on Switch!

  • Paper Mario: The Origami King
    • Coming out July 17th!
  • Nintendo’s page is letting you know you can pre-order it now
    • If you pre-order it will install the data now
    • And at midnight for on the 17th you can play the game
  • A beautiful paper world to unfold
    • The devious King Olly has transformed Princess Peach into origami, uprooted her castle and sealed it shut with magical paper streamers.
    • Join Mario and his new companion Olivia on a comedic adventure that will take you to the far corners of a papercraft world
      • With the help of Olivia’s paper-folding powers, use the far-reaching 1,000 Fold Arms and other paper transformations to save those imprisoned by the Origami King’s henchmen, and help restore peace to the world.
    • Face off against the Origami King and his army of paper invaders, team up with some extraordinary companions and master magical powers on your quest to save the world.
    • Journey across the land – from scorching deserts to sailing the high seas – and recruit a revolving cast of wacky travel buddies, as you seek to sever these sinister streamers and save your paper pals from being turned into one of the Folded Soldiers!
    • Repair the damage done by the Folded Soldiers and rescue Toads trapped in all manner of wacky scrapes!
    • Put a stop to King Olly’s plans by engaging in battles which will put both your tactical thinking and puzzle solving skills to the test – against his origami army, as well as humongous bosses under his command!
  • From what I could tell from the video and screen shots
    • Paper Mario is teamed up with the origami Olivia for special powers
      • One featured has him with extended origami arms
      • It looks like the arms will be using joycon motions to work
      • Like pulling a cardboard tab along a perforated edge
    • It also looks like all the paper denizens are teamed up with Mario
      • Enemies pictured behind him facing the origami threat
      • Bowser looks like he got folded down to just his face to diminish his power
    • Game play looks very familiar
      • Traversing crafted 3D enviroments
      • RPG combat with bonuses for timing
      • Might have an over-world where travel is done not to scale
    • And it looks like some things are 3D papermache
      • Perhaps its different from the 2D paper but weaker than Origami?
        • The ending has a silly clip of Paper Mario with a giant papermache Samus helmet
          • He is running back and forth making a fist pretending his arm is a blaster
        • The scene also has a papermache DK head, adding more questions to how Paper Mario ties into the Nintendo franchises

Tidbits

  • The latest rumours for the expected over-ear AirPods Studio look very interesting with technology expected for head/neck detection (similar to ear detection in AirPods that pauses your media when you take one out), and automatic left-right side assignment
    • Analysts say that instead of having a specific left or right speaker, the headphones will detect which way they’re being worn and adjust accordingly
    • They’re expected to retail for about $349 USD
  • A remastered version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 was announced this week in text messages from the man himself
    • Apparently Tony has a text message service you can sign up for to receive messages from him throughout the year, and he took to it to announce that every skating level from the two PlayStation 1 games would return, along with every pro skater in the original games, and the custom skate park feature from Pro Skater 5
    • Activision says it will be coming to the Xbox One, PS4, and PC (via Epic Games) this September for $40 USD, $60 CAD
  • To promote learning from home, Ubisoft is making their Discovery Tour series completely free for anyone with a Uplay account
    • Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece and DT: Ancient Egypt are versions of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and AC: Origins that strip out the combat in favour of education
    • You can explore multiple regions, learn about daily life in the period, and hear about myths, legends, and philosophies of the cultures
  • In an effort to get around Trump’s ban on American companies from doing business with them, Huawei is re-releasing old phones that still support Google apps
    • Apparently the ban has worked is that any devices launched before the ban, and even some slightly afterward, can still be sold with Google apps installed
    • Since then though it’s been expected that Huawei will have a 20% drop is sales this year, and that may only be the initial impact as the Google-enabled Huawei phones become de-supported and fall off the market
    • So Huawei’s solution is to release “New Edition” versions of last year’s phones- new software and more memory, but otherwise the exact same phone
    • These can’t really take the place of their flagship line of devices, but it’s something they can put out there and see if people will buy, at least

 

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Free games

– Epic Games

    – Close to the Sun

        – 2019
        – First-person horror adventure similar to Bioshock that puts you in the role of Rose Archer, trying to save her sister Ada in an alternate 1897 that has Tesla and Edison fighting for technological dominance around the world

    – Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

        – 2014
        – Adventure mystery game in the same series as The Devil’s Daughter, that has you exploring crime scenes and examining clues to link deductions and attempt to find the culprit in six different mysteries

Update to last week’s PSA- Apple has released iOS, macOS, and watchOS updates that fix the issue with FaceTiming older devices, so if you’re using FaceTime to keep in touch with people still using systems that don’t support the latest software you’ll want to prioritize updating

Continuing their past security and privacy shenanigans, Zoom is really cementing why they shouldn’t be used if you can avoid it
– Their latest mistakes include “accidentally” routing calls through China, which is the last place on earth you’d want your poorly encrypted video chats routed through, and exposing thousands of videos online because the file names are easily accessible
    – The Washington Post found that, because Zoom names every video recording with the same format, a simple online search can reveal a long stream of videos that anyone can download and watch.
    – Reporters found things like one-on-one therapy sessions, training orientation for healthcare that included private names and phone numbers, meetings including financial information, and elementary school classes in which children’s faces and personal details were exposed
– Zoom has really been playing fast and loose with security and privacy, and it’s time that we let them know that’s not okay

Researchers are now calling on people to wear cloth masks when leaving their homes for essential reasons

– One big thing to note is that they’re not saying physical interaction is okay if you wear a mask, but that if you have to go out anyway a cloth mask has a chance to improve risks of transmission
– Using cloth masks will free up stock of medical-grade equipment for those who need it on the frontline of healthcare (seriously, if you have any paper or N95 masks please donate them to a hospital. Medical professionals need them more than you do), and professors at Yale say that even if cloth masks reduce transmission by 10% (and that’s likely a very conservative number) each one could have a value of $3000-$6000 due to their impact in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
    – Best estimates say that their protective value is even closer to 40-50%
– You can find plenty of cloth masks online nowadays, and if you’re feeling crafty the CDC has released guidelines on how to make your own with a few different methods suggested for all skill levels, from sewing a fancy one to cutting one out of a t-shirt to just folding a bandana around a coffee filter- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
– The biggest thing though is to make sure you’re practising good hand hygiene, washing them frequently, and not touching your face.
    – Be conscious of your mask and hands, because you may end up wanting to touch your face more to adjust and position your mask while wearing it
    – Make sure you have one that fits comfortably, don’t touch it, and if you do make sure to immediately wash your hands
    – Also note that once you’ve worn your mask it’s contaminated- don’t just throw it in your pocket for later use. Make sure to wash it frequently and be aware that it can contaminate whatever it comes into contact with before you do so

Sony has unveiled their new DualSense controllers for the upcoming PS5, and they’re very pretty

– It looks like they’ve taken cues from the Xbox One and Switch Pro controllers in making things a little more rounded and smooth, continuing the evolution of the classic Playstation controller mold that the PS4 revamped
– They’ve also added haptic feedback for more meaningful vibration, similar to Nintendo’s Joy-cons, and adaptive triggers so that they can dynamically change the resistance of the pull depending on context (like drawing a bowstring)
– The controller also has a built-in microphone array for quick conversations so you don’t need a headset
– All in all this seems like a great improvement of the DualShock 4, and I’m really looking forward to using one

In a move with some great timing, Google’s Stadia is now free for anyone with a Gmail address

– And the cherry on top is that Stadia Pro, including access to nine games, is free for the next two months
    – Destiny 2: The Collection
    – Grid
    – Gylt
    – SteamWorld Dig 2
    – SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
    – Serious Sam Collection
    – Spitlings
    – Stacks on Stacks (on Stacks)
    – and Thumper
– You’ll be able to play games on a computer, Chrome tablet, Pixel phone, and other supported Android devices including the Chromecast Ultra
    – You can also play with any supported USB or Bluetooth controller, or your mouse and keyboard
– After the two month free trial you’ll be charged $9.99/month, but you can cancel your subscription online if you choose

Tidbits

– Apple has purchased the popular weather app Dark Sky this week, announcing that while there will be no changes to the app itself they will be ending Android support this July. They’ll also be shutting down the API at the end of 2021, affecting other popular apps like Carrot Weather that use them as a data source
– Users of the digital wallet app Key Ring will want to update as soon as possible due to a large security breach
    – Security researchers have found that the app accidentally exposed personal info for over 44M users due to misconfigured cloud servers
        – The potentially compromised data includes names, birthdates, emails, addresses, and loyalty card info
    – Key Ring hasn’t made a public statement so we don’t know how long the data’s been out there, so anyone using it will want to update the security settings for anything linked to it and perhaps rethink continuing to use it at all
– Apple’s had a tough time with AirPod replacements, with many individual AirPods being shipped to customers with an unreleased firmware preventing them from being used
    – In order to have both AirPods synced to your phone at once they need to have matching firmware. The problem here is that they can’t be downgraded to the current version, and the newer firmware hasn’t been released to the public, so users are having to work back and forth with Apple trying to get AirPods that will actually work together with varying amounts of success
    – The hardest part is that this all has to occur through the mail, since Apple Stores are now slated to be closed until at least May

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PS2J 293 News – Ctrl Alt Leak All Your Data

Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • The Stanley Parable

      • Started life as a Half-Life 2 mod in 2011, it became a standalone game in 2013
      • You play as the titular Stanley, and going through an office building in first person perspective, with everything that happens being narrated by the lovely British voice actor Kevan Brighting. You end up finding a bunch of diverging pathways, with options to disobey the narrator, that all get incorporated into the story with many different endings.
    • Watch Dogs

      • 2014
      • Third-person action-adventure game that follows hacker Aiden Pearce’s search for revenge after the killing of his niece, set in an open-world version of Chicago that has you going through different puzzles to hack a ton of different technology. There are also RPG mechanics with a reputation system and skill trees for hacking, crafting, combat, and driving
  • App Store

    • Alto’s Adventure

      • Join Alto and his friends as they embark on an endless snowboarding odyssey. Journey across the beautiful alpine hills of their native wilderness, through neighbouring villages, ancient woodlands, and long-abandoned ruins.
    • Alto’s Odyssey

      • Join Alto and his friends and set off on an endless sandboarding journey to discover its secrets. Soar above windswept dunes, traverse thrilling canyons, and explore long-hidden temples in a fantastical place far from home.
    • Kingdom Rush

      • Original, Frontiers, and Origins
      • Highly rated tower defence games
      • Get ready for an epic journey to defend your kingdom against hordes of orcs, trolls, evil wizards and other nasty fiends using a vast arsenal of towers and spells at your command!

COVID-19

  • According to the CDC, water temperature doesn’t matter at all when washing your hands
    • Hot or cold, the important factors are to use soap for at least 20 seconds and to use clean, running water. Standing water in a basin could be contaminated
    • They also mention turning off the faucet after wetting your hands to save water while you soap up, saying there is little data to prove significant numbers of germs are transferred between hands and the faucet
    • And also remember that while hand sanitizer also does the job, you’ll want to use soap and water if there is any visible dirt or grime to clean off. The best approach is to use both tools frequently
  • In some solid marketing spin, Apple is kicking off WWDC 2020 in June with an all new online format
    • Though it’s clearly a cancellation of the in-person sessions due to COVID-19, the way they’ve phrased it, and indeed the way it will exist this year, is an online format equally accessible to all developers no matter their location
    • They gave brief mention to the “current health situation”, but never actually mentioned COVID-19 or coronavirus
  • Many internet companies like TekSavvy and Shaw are making changes to remove data caps, offer flexible billing, and open up access points like Shaw Go WiFi to the general public
    • The FCC in the US is left scrambling to protect consumers though, after aggressively deregulating and removing their own power
      • They’ve convinced many ISP’s to waive late fees and not terminate services due to unpaid bill during this crisis, but glaringly omitted is any mention of removing data caps and overage fees
      • Ajit Pai arguing that ISP’s shouldn’t disconnect people in a time of emergency is making many wonder- isn’t this an admission that the internet is a utility, a basic service nowadays like power and water, and thus should be regulated as such?
  • The vast majority of business are either closing down completely or transitioning to online-only or limited delivery/takeout options to limit personal contact
    • Apple is even offering returns up to 14 days after they re-open their retail stores, as long as it’s not a phone bought on contract
    • Gamestop, though, has made the controversial decision to stay open in the US. They’re limiting the number of customers allowed in and cancelling midnight releases, but it’s still not a great situation
      • Many staff have reported on reddit that they haven’t even received disinfectant cleaners from corporate, instead being expected to provide their own and request reimbursement
      • Gamestop also still appears to be accepting trade-ins. Workers have apparently been told they can use gloves when accepting them, but they again have to buy their own
  • With movie theatres closing to keep up social distancing, Universal is releasing new movies as 48-hour rentals on the same day as their planned theatrical release. Current options include Trolls World Tour, The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma, which cost $20 to rent (about two movie tickets)
    • I can see a lot of other studios doing the same, if they haven’t already, to try and keep up their revenue on new releases
  • Conan O’Brien is taking an interesting route in sorting this out, allowing his crew to work from home while he shoots his show from his house on his iPhone
  • The WWE is still going strong, performing their hearts out to completely empty stadiums and arenas in some entertaining and somewhat surreal Twitter videos I’ve seen
  • The European Union is calling on Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services to temporarily reduce video quality to ease the strain on broadband networks while many work from home
    • Italy, one of the countries hit worst by the pandemic, saw a 75% rise in broadband and mobile network traffic over the weekend
  • Israel has passed an emergency law allowing them to track the smartphone data of people with suspected COVID-19 and others they come into contact with to make sure they follow quarantine rules, which is kind of terrifying when you think of the ramifications

Apple has announced a bunch of new hardware coming down the pipe, and DaringFireball has a solid breakdown of what we can expect

  • New iPad Pro models are coming with faster CPUs and GPUs
    • They also come with more storage, with the base model up to 128GB from 64GB, all for the same prices
    • They’ve also added a LiDAR sensor (basically a laser range-finder) which could mean much faster and more effective augmented reality apps
  • iPadOS 13.4 is coming this Tuesday and will include full system-wide pointer support for mice and trackpads
    • This looks pretty slick, being a round cursor when mousing around and then disappearing and highlighting buttons and controls when hovering over them
  • There will be a new Magic Keyboard iPad case coming in May with an integrated trackpad and backlit keys
    • It looks pretty powerful with no kickstand and adjustable angles, converting the iPad Pro into an actual , albeit topheavy, clamshell laptop
  • And the new MacBook Air has double the storage, greatly improved performance, and the prices have dropped significantly
    • With the price drops and storage increases, you can compare the previous generation’s slower 256GB model costing $1299USD to the brand new faster equivalent at $999
      • If you do want to spend $1299, you end up with a much beefier processor and double the storage
    • And as a bonus, they now have the new scissor-switch keyboard that solves many of the issues with Apple’s butterfly mechanism

China deploys a ton of ‘No touch’ Hologram elevator buttons

http://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/demand-china-surges-no-touch-hologram-buttons/
  • A technology company in the city of Hefei, west of Shanghai, has attracted more than 100 orders for its holographic lift buttons as Chinese look for ways to avoid touching surfaces that may harbour the Covid-19 virus.
  • The device works by projecting an image of buttons in the air, and allowing users to “touch” them. The maker, Easpeed, says it can be fitted to all elevators, and has a response time of less than 30 milliseconds.
  • The system is relatively expensive, at about $2,000, prompting some building owners to opt for retrofitted voice controls, at a cost of around $500.
  • This has been done in hospitals in Yichang, Hubei Province, and Beijing’s Xiaotangshan Hospital.
  • Zhu Yongzhi, vice president Easpeed, told Global Times that the accuracy of voice control varied depending on noise levels, and the languages and dialects of the speaker.
  • He added that his company had received orders from Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou in east China’s Zhejiang Province, and that the price may fall once Easpeed begins mass production.
  • Another approach has been taken by Huawei, which has developed an app that allows users to use a mobile phone to call elevators and select levels.
  • Meanwhile, those Chinese citizens who find themselves in unimproved lifts have taken their own measures, by using pens, toothpicks and keys to call their transport. Some may even have taken the stairs …

Watch Netflix with friends all from the comfort of you own homes!

https://www.gamespot.com/articles/netflix-party-lets-you-watch-movies-online-togethe/1100-6474858/
  • Netflix Party is a new way to watch Netflix with your friends online.
    • Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favorite Netflix shows.
  • How it works.
    • Install Netflix Party
    • Clicking the “Install Netflix Party” button on this page. Once you are redirected to the Chrome Web Store, click “Add to Chrome” to finish installing Netflix Party.
  • Open a Video in Netflix
    • Go to Netflix’s website. Choose any show you would like to watch and start playing the video.
  • Create your party
    • To create your party, click on the red “NP” icon located next to the address bar. Then click “Start Party” to get the party started, and share the party URL to invite friends.
  • Join a Netflix Party
    • To join a party click on the party URL, which will redirect to Netflix’s website. Then click on the “NP” button next to the address bar, and you should automatically join the party.
  • Has some customization options
    • User icon and nickname
    • Upload screenshots, emojis and GIFs
  • Netflix Party claims they have over 500 thousand users already
    • Is is not clear is they are affiliated with Netflix
    • Since they have a Patreon of $5 a month, I feel they are not
    • And with all participants needing their own access to Netflix
      • I doubt this will be taken down
      • But we never know

Tidbits

  • Microsoft’s been confirming the nuts and bolts of the Xbox Series X this last week, including a fancy solid-state drive, but they’ve made a bit of a misstep when it comes to expansion
    • They’re going to be selling the Xbox Series X Storage Expansion Card, a proprietary mcguffin developed with Seagate that you’ll need if you want to install more games than the internal storage allows. USB is allowed for backup, but not for gameplay
      • The cards will apparently offer some portability though, letting players bring a card loaded with games to a friend’s Xbox and play them there
    • Almost in response, Sony announced that the PS5 will have an expansion bay for an off-the-shelf solid-state drive, though they will be certifying specific drives to meet the new PCI Express 4.0 standard
  • After founding Microsoft in 1975, Bill Gates has left the its board entirely last week to dedicate more time to his philanthropic endeavours
    • It was a surprisingly quiet announcement, snuck in on a Friday under the headline “Microsoft announces change to its board of directors”
  • Apple has been fined a record $1.23B in France for price-fixing with their Apple Premium Reseller program
    • The French competition agency said that under the program, Apple published recommended prices and tightly restricted promotional materials distributors could use. One distributor said that if it ran a promotion Apple didn’t like, the company would retaliate by limiting product supply
    • The agency also found that Apple limited supplies to partners during moments of heavy demand around new product launches, to steer customers to its own stores
    • All in all some pretty nasty business practices that don’t sound very legal at all
  • Comcast has mistakenly published the names, phone numbers, and addresses of nearly 200,000 customers that pay monthly fees to remain unlisted
    • The information was made available on Ecolisting, a directory run by Comcast, and shortly thereafter picked up by third party directories
    • Comcast has shut that directory down, paid each customer $100 in credits, and offered free number changes, but the last time something like this happened in 2015 it resulted in a $33M settlement
    • This could be a very big deal for people that need to stay anonymous online for things like personal safety reasons, as even though they can change their phone numbers their names and addresses are out there now

New Overwatch Character #32, Echo

Backstory

  • Dr Mina Liao, Expert in robotics and artificial intelligence
    • Joined the Omnica Corporation and helped create the omnic race
    • During the Omnic Crisis, she was enlisted by Commander Morrison to join Overwatch
    • Mina created the Echo Project, to create an adaptive AI highly advanced robot to help with her vision of the future

Abilities

  • Primary attack
    • Tri-Shot – 15 shots before relead
    • Shoots 3 projectiles in a triangle pattern
  • Secondary Attack
    • Sticky Bombs – 5 second cooldown
    • Shoots a volley of bombs that stick to enemies and detonates after a short time
    • can be combined with Primary attack
      • Unlike Zenyatta’s charge attack
  • Primary Ability
    • Flight
    • Initial boost forward
    • Followed by a short time of free flight
    • She can also glide
      • Faster falling than Mercy’s similar ability, but more maneuverability
  • Alternate Ability
    • Focusing Beam
    • Deals significantly more damage to characters that are under 50% health
    • Also deals more damage to Barriers that are below 50%
      • Funfact – The first cracks on a barrier are when it falls to 50%
  • Ultimate
    • Duplicate
    • Echo will duplicate an enemy character for 15 seconds
    • Echo replicates the appearance of the hero and gains all their abilities
    • Damage done or healed, in this transformed state will accumulate more Ult charge than in regular gameplay
    • If you are defeated, you lose your transformation, and become Echo again
    • Quality of life enhancement added to confirm the character selected before transforming
      • It is also added to Ana’s Ultimate, to confirm the character you will be boosting
  • She is a very advanced character and will have a long time on the PTR

 

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PS2J 291 News – Boring School Stuff Folder

Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • GoNNER

      • 2016
      • A roguelike game often described as a shooter version of Spelunky- a procedurally generated 2D platformer that has you journeying in deep and dark places for a trinket to cheer up a giant landbound whale named Sally
    • Offworld Trading Company

      • 2016
      • A sci-fi RTS from the publishers of Sins of a Solar Empire that has you waging economic warfare on Mars, using anything from corporate takeovers to sabotage
  • Twitch

    • Bomber Crew

      • 2017
      • Strategic simulation game that has you picking the right crew to keep your Avro Lancaster bomber in tip top shape and complete your World War II era missions
    • Whispers of a Machine

      • 2019
      • A point and click sci-fi nordic noir that tells the story of a cybernetically augmented detective investigating a string of murders in a post-AI world
    • Mugsters

      • 2018
      • A physics-based sandbox puzzle game that has you outrunning, outmanoeuvring, and outsmarting the aliens that have taken over Earth and enslaved humanity
    • Furi

      • 2016
      • A twin-stick hack and slash shoot ’em up bullet hell consisting entirely of boss fights. The jailer is the key, kill him and you’ll be free.
    • Epistory – Typing Chronicles

      • 2016
      • An atmospheric action-adventure typing game following a girl riding a giant fox fighting insectile corruption in an origami world

With the COVID-19 coronavirus concerns in full swing, Google has cancelled their annual I/O developer conference and many are speculating that Apple may at the very least modify their own WWDC this spring

  • Other events like this year’s Game Developer’s Conference and Mobile World Congress events were previously postponed or cancelled due to concerns about the virus
  • With supply chains in China certainly being affected, it might just make sense to delay the product announcements as well and keep the developer portions of the presentations limited to online sessions
    • It’s gotten to the point where Apple Stores have been warned that replacement devices will be facing supply constraints for the next 2-4 weeks, so be warned if your phone needs a repair you might be caught with a loaner device in the meantime
  • Apple’s even sent care packages, called CareKits, to staff they have currently stranded overseas, that include things like coffee, tea, cookies, facemasks, and an iPad
  • If you’re interested in helping fight COVID-19, you can donate your unused computer resources by downloading the Folding@home client. That will add your computer to a pool that lets researchers farm out processing tasks to see how the virus attaches itself to human lungs, which they need to understand if they’re going to stop it
    • Similar efforts have contributed to research on diseases like cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s
    • Check out the full details at foldingathome.org
  • There’s also a similar piece of software available called Foldit, but instead of just using your extra processing power it’s actually a puzzle game that has you changing a protein’s shape to block how the virus infects people. According to PCGamer, Foldit helped researchers decode the AIDS virus back in 2011
    • If you want to take a crack at it, with no medical degree required, you can go to fold.it and give it a go

What do US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, Best Buy, Walmart, the RCMP, and a sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates have in common? Well according to Buzzfeed News they, along with thousands of other organizations, have been using a controversial facial recognition startup that’s facing legal threats and violating App Store regulations left and right

  • Clearview AI is apparently on a quest to create a global biometric identification system by scraping social media and the internet at large, and it’s for sale to anyone who wants it
    • They have paid contracts with organizations like ICE, US Attorney’s offices, and Macy’s, and have users at the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, Interpol, and the NBA
  • The New York based startup has claimed it’s tech is meant as a tool for North American law enforcement, but it’s been used by more than 2,200 government agencies and companies across 27 countries
    • So we have this product featuring a treasure trove of identifying information on a ton of people, accessible to anyone that can pay, oh and also they’ve been breached at least once so presumably a few people that haven’t paid as well
  • The hardest part here is that the US just doesn’t have any laws or regulatory framework for this kind of biometric tracking- there’s literally no accountability for their ability to gather up this information and sell it, leading to government agencies running literally thousands searches and most likely acting on the information received
    • We could have ICE agents walking into a supermarket, scanning people, and immediately deporting them without due process or investigation
    • And this is all based on the tech of a company that can’t even keep their client list confidential
    • It’s one thing to have a database of internally gathered mugshots, or even shared between agencies, but when you outsource it to a third party whose interests are purely monetary and scrapes the internet at large for information it gets really scary
  • All in all there’s a complete lack of transparency here- Clearview is providing free trials to anyone who wants them, even officers in police departments that have explicitly banned the app, and provided its software to private and public institutions all over the world
  • This stuff is so shady that they didn’t even want their iOS app distributed through Apple’s App Store- they abused the developer program, similar to Facebook’s Research app that paid users to spy on their information early last year, so that users could sideload the app without it being reviewed by Apple
    • In a response to Buzzfeed’s inquiry Apple investigated and suspended their developer account, effectively preventing the app from running

Overwatch Competitive Play Hero Rotation

  • To make competetive Overwatch more dynamic, Blizzard has implemented a Hero Rotation
  • First banned characters are
    • Orisa
    • Hanzo
    • Mei
    • Baptiste

Cool looking game: Nocturne

  • For free on Steam, try Nocturne: Prelude
  • The game caught my eye with a bright colour pallette
    • Cool high quality pixel graphics
    • and rhythm based combat
  • Here is the copy thy have on their Steam page:
    • Rich Narrative
      • The digital afterlife survived humanity’s extinction.
    • Nocturne: Prelude is the first chapter of a story-driven RPG set within a digital afterlife. Millennia have passed since humanity’s extinction; but somehow you’ve only just arrived.
    • Your conscience was uploaded to a world where a sentient AI has taken control, twisted creatures roam the land, and a vast corruption spreads.
    • Rhythm Combat
    • Master an entirely skill based rhythm combat with fierce battles and unexpected challenges. With multiple difficulty options, Nocturne: Prelude is a game suitable for beginners and veterans of the rhythm genre.
    • Find equipment to unlock powerful combat buffs or special abilities. Defeat enemies to unlock them in Arcade mode, where you can challenge them again for highscores.
    • Classic RPG
    • Make friends, battle enemies, and traverse a beautiful world as it falls apart around you. The perfect balance of heart-pumping musical combat, magnificent worldbuilding and deep story.
    • Nocturne: Prelude was inspired by decades of traditional RPG’s that immerse you in fantasy worlds.
    • FEATURES
    • Meet a cast of unique characters who’ll challenge what it means to be alive.
    • Explore a vast and beautiful pixel art world.
    • Master an entirely skill based rhythm combat system.
    • Fierce battles with unexpected twists.
    • Challenge your highscores in Arcade mode.
    • Multiple difficulty modes suitable for beginners and veterans of the rhythm genre.
    • Original soundtrack composed with a mix of digital and live performances.
    • Befriend a giant orange fish.
  • Nocturne: Prelude is the first chapter of Nocturne, released for free. The main story contains about 1-2 hours of gameplay.

Tidbits

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake’s demo of officially available now, ahead of its April 10th release
    • I specify ‘officially’ available, because there was already a sizeable leak at the end of last year, with many getting their hands on the full playable demo at the time
  • Apple has agreed to pay up to $500M to settle the class action lawsuit over throttling the performance of older phones
    • The whole issue came about when iOS 11 hit, when it had an undocumented feature that managed the battery life of older phones to prevent unexpected shutdowns- benchmarks took a hit, but the devices stayed reliable
    • The problem was that they didn’t give any feedback or options for this feature until iOS 13 came out late last year, so while they’re not admitting any wrongdoing they’re still willing to pay each affected user $25 if the settlement is approved
      • As MrMcLargeHuge said in the arstechnica comments section, “They were correct from a technical standpoint, but wrong from a PR standpoint.”
  • The director of MI5, Britain’s Security Service has called on tech companies to find a way to allow spy agencies “exceptional access” to encrypted messages, and that he finds it “increasingly mystifying” that intelligence agencies aren’t able to easily read secret messages of suspects they’re monitoring
    • While he refers to cyberspace as an unregulated “Wild West” that is largely inaccessible to authorities, it kind of seems like they’ve gotten lazy with how easy it’s been to spy on users up to this point. Now that we’re putting locks on our messages they want a copy of the keys

 

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Free Games

  • Microsoft

    • Batman: The Enemy Within

      • 2017
      • Episodic adventure game in classic Telltale Games fashion, and a sequel to 2016’s Batman: The Telltale Series, it features the usual branching narrative and choices carrying over from the previous title
    • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

      • 2016
      • The fourth game in the Shantae series, and the first full HD title, it’s a cute platformer with metroidvania elements that has you transforming into different animals to access new areas
    • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

      • 2014
      • An action-adventure sequel to the 2010 Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, you play a weakened Dracula on a quest through medieval and modern worlds to defeat Satan
    • Sonic Generations

      • 2011
      • Produced for the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, and featuring both classic sidescrolling and full 3D levels, it follows Sonic and Tails as they team up with their past selves to stop an evil entity from erasing time itself
  • Sony

    • Shadow of the Colossus

      • 2018 remake of the 2005 PS2 game
      • Beautiful action-adventure game that has you exploring a vast expanse on horseback to defeat the 16 colossi to restore the life of a girl, it’s minimalist in that there are no towns to explore, characters to interact with, or enemies to defeat other than the colossi
    • Sonic Forces

      • 2017
      • Platformer published for Sonic’s 25th anniversary, it features both classic side-scrolling and modern 3D Sonic gameplay, as well as a mode featuring custom characters inspired by fanart over the years
      • This one caught some flack for being released after the success of Sonic Mania
  • Epic

    • InnerSpace

      • 2018
      • Adventure game inspired by Journey and Grow Home that has you soaring through the sky and diving into the ocean in search of the ancient gods of the Inverse, a realm of inside-out planets

Google’s strange stance on the ToTok messaging app malware is making a lot of people suspicious

  • ToTok first hit as a popular social messaging app receiving millions of downloads from the Play and App Stores combined, with the iOS app alone having more than 32,000 reviews
  • Then late last year both Google and Apple removed the app from their app stores after US intelligence officials found it was a tool for spying by the United Arab Emirates government
    • They told the New York times that the UAE was trying to track “every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound, and image of those who install it on their phones.”
    • An independent analysis of the iOS and macOS apps confirmed that, if you gave it permission to access your contacts, it did in fact collect entire address books and send them back to head office
    • Not to mention the fact that all in-app communications would be readily accessible to the developers if they so choose
  • Then a week later, Google put it right back with no explanation
  • And then this week they removed it from the Play Store a second time, again with no explanation
  • Finally, over the last few days Google’s Play Protect app scanning service started showing the warning “This app tries to spy on your personal data, such as SMS messages, photos, audio recordings, or call history. Even if you have heard of this app or the app developer, this version of the app could harm your device.”
    • The message then gives you two options, either Uninstall or Keep App (Unsafe)
  • That back-and-forth, especially with them not telling users exactly what they know about the app, has people scratching their heads
    • Some are even speculating there may have been some insider on the app approval team that tried to sneak it back in

Slickwraps customers were treated some conflicting information about their privacy this week, but the bullet point here is that the company has been breached

  • Earlier this week the whitehat hacker and cybersecurity consultant known as Lynx posted a full breakdown of exactly how they hacked Slickwraps’ website and, by extension, their internal systems
    • Basically it looks like the case customization feature, that lets you upload a photo to make a custom decal, allowed users to upload any file to any location on the webserver
    • That allowed access to the full contents of the server, including employee resumes and 9GB of customer photos (which, of course, included nudes)
    • From there Lynx got into configuration files, leading to their entire database including customer addresses, emails, phone numbers, and transaction histories
      • As a bonus they also got access to Slickwraps’ admin accounts and credentials for their payment partners, admin accounts, social media, and help desk
    • Basically, at this point Lynx owned Slickwraps’ entire digital infrastructure
    • Now you might ask, why did they post this info publicly? Well apparently they tried to contact support subtly on Twitter, directly through the support portal, and then no subtly by adding a page to their website saying “Lynx was here” and tweeting it to their support account
      • The company’s response, apparently, was to block Lynx on Twitter and, according to Lync, try to erase the data breach from their logs and reset passwords, even reinstalling their whole eCommerce platform, without actually closing the hole in their security
    • Days afterward they continued to ignore Lynx, even after other unscrupulous activity could be seen going on as other hackers caught wind of the vulnerability
    • Eventually the company messaged Lynx asking if they were looking for a bounty. Lynx replied, saying they didn’t want anything but for Slickwraps to notify their users of the breach as they’re required to do as part of European data privacy laws, which they were already in breach of since it took them so long after first contact to do anything
      • Then things got a little dark, with Lynx threatening that if Slickwraps didn’t contact customers they would do it themselves and potentially leak the entire database of information
      • The response? “Why are you doing this?”, followed up by “Are you able to help?” and “We are just the social team, btw and done via a 3rd party”
      • So Lynx did what they perhaps should have done in the first place- they found the CEO’s email in the Slickwraps database and emailed him, telling him to check the messages
      • Shortly afterward, Lynx was once more blocked. So days after first contact they gave up and published their findings
  • Eventually Slickwraps did sent out a notification on February 21st, 6 days after the initial hack, saying “On February 22nd, we discovered information in some of our non-production databases was mistakenly made public via an exploit. During this time, the databases were accessed by an unauthorized party.” and claiming to have closed the databases in question
    • The timeline here is a little suspect, as well as the claim that it was non-production databases accessed rather than their entire infrastructure
    • It was also sent to a lot fewer users than were actually exposed- other whitehats sent out emails to the entire database details what happened, including each customer’s name and physical address as evidence, and there are many reports online of people receiving this email and not the official one
  • There’s also the fact that at this point, depending on how far Slickwraps has come in actually addressing the issue, I would avoid their website since who knows what malware or other surprises people have snuck into place
  • But there is good news here- no passwords or financial data were leaked, and if you checked out as Guest instead of creating an account you’re completely safe
  • People that have been affected will need to be on the lookout for more targeted phishing attacks though, as a lot of identifying information is out in the wild now
  • If you want to see if you’re affected you can punch your email address into haveibeenpwned.com to see a list of data breaches that include your information

Having fun with MTG Commander again

  • Thanks to my friend Cam for inviting me to his MTG night
  • Cam helped pick out some mean cards for my Mogis Commander deck
    • Here are some Highlights:
    • Mogis, God of Slaughter
      • For reference my commander, when on the field causes my opponent to sacrifice a creature or take 2 damage every upkeep
    • Dictate of the Twin Gods, 5 mana Enchantment
      • If a source would deal damage to a permanent or player, it deals double dame to that permanent or player instead.
    • Painful Quandry, 5 mana Enchantment
      • Whenever an opponent casts a spell, that player loses 5 life unless he or she discards a card
    • Ob Nixilis, Unshackled, 6 mana Legendary Creature, 4/4
      • Flying, Trample
      • Whenever an opponent searches his or her library, that player sacrifices a creature and loses 10 life.
      • Whenever another creature dies, put a +1/+1 on this creature
    • God-Pharoh’s Statue, 6 mana Legendary Artifact
      • Spells your opponents cast cost 2 more to cast
      • At the beginning of your end step, each opponent loses 1 life
    • Hour of Devastation, 5 mana Sorcery
      • All creatures lose indestructible until end of turn.
      • Hour of Devastation deals 5 damage to each creature and non-Bolas planeswalker
    • Fraying Omnipotence, 5 mana Sorcery
      • Each player loses half their life, then discards half the cards in their hand, then sacrifices half the creatures they control.
      • Round up.
    • Dingus Staff, 4 mana Artifact
      • Whenever a creature is put into any graveyard from play, Dingus Staff deals 2 damage to that creatures contoller

Overwatch Experimental 1-3-2

  • There is a new tab when selecting your game called Experimental.
    • It is reserved for radically different tests, that are not meant to roll into the game, which is why they aren’t seen exclusively on the Public Test Realm.
  • The first is a test to change the dynamic of team play to have one tank, three damage and two support.
    • To make one tank more viable, here are the interesting changes made to the Tank Heroes.
  • D.Va

    • Health
      • Still 600, but adjusted to have 200 more armor
    • Defense Matrix
      • Lasts twice as long, now 4 seconds
    • Fusion Cannons, primary fire
      • Now only reduce movement speed by 30% instead of 50%
  • Orisa

    • Protective Barrier
      • Cooldown reduced from 10 seconds to 8
      • Barrier health increased to 900
  • Reinhardt

    • Health
      • Still 500, adjusted to have 100 more armor
    • Rocket Hammer, primary fire
      • Damage increased from 75 to 90
    • Barrier Field
      • Regeneration increased from 200 to 250 per second
  • Roadhog

    • Take A Breather
      • In addition to regular effect, leaves a cloud when used.
      • The cloud heals all allies for 25 health per second and provides 25% damage reduction
    • Chain Hook
      • Reduced from 8 to 6 seconds
    • Scrap Gun, primary fire
      • Damage per pellet reduced from 6 to 5 (150 damage per shot down to 125 damage)
    • Whole Hog
      • Cost increased by 15%
  • Sigma

    • Experimental Barrier
      • Regeneration rate increased from 120 to 200 per second
      • Barrier health increased from 900 to 1200
  • Winston

    • Health
      • Armor health pool increased from 100 to 200 (Total health is now 600)
    • Barrier Projector
      • Cooldown reduced from 13 seconds to 10 seconds
  • Zarya

    • Health and Energy
      • Shields health pool increased from 200 to 300. (Total health is now 500)
      • Maximum energy gain per barrier decreased from 40 to 30
    • Particle Cannon, primary fire
      • Maximum primary fire damage per second reduced from 170 to 140
    • Particle Cannon, secondary fire
      • Maximum secondary fire damage reduced from 95 to 80
    • Particle Barrier (Self)
      • Cooldown decreased from 10 seconds to 8 seconds
    • Particle Barrier (Ally)
      • Now creates barriers on all allies within 8 meters of your target
      • Duration increased from 2 seconds to 3 seconds

Tidbits

  • Apple’s taking some heat this week for their Mac Pro option that changes its solid feet to a set of wheels
    • The $400 upgrade doesn’t offer any way to lock the wheels, so while it could be decent on the floor it would be a terrible idea to put it on a table or desk
  • In a pretty confusing turn of events, the popular mobile game Plague Inc has been pulled from the iOS App Store in China because authorities say it “includes content that is illegal in China”
    • The strangest part is that it’s been available for years, so the best guess is that it has something to do with the COVID-19 coronavirus, but that still doesn’t really map
  • The United States FTC has announced that it’s sending out refund cheques to people who fell victim to tech support scams
    • The agency will be sending out a total of $1.7M, averaging $30 each, to users tricked into paying for fake tech support from companies like Click4Support
  • Samsung users got a surprise last week, receiving Find My Phone notifications that just said “1”
    • Apparently the alert was an accident- basically someone pressed a button they didn’t mean to and set out the mass notification during an internal test
    • Some users also noticed an odd spike in the app’s battery usage, with no explanation
  • Director Rian Johnson shared some interesting info in a Vanity Fair interview this week- Apple lets you use iPhone in movies, but the bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera

 

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PS2J 287 News – Who Knows What We’ll Name It

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Desert Child

      • 2018
      • An indie racing RPG that throws you into the role of a hungry, young hoverbike racer who needs to get off Earth before it explodes- hunt bounties, throw races, get to Mars, and win the Grand Prix
    • American Fugitive

      • 2019
      • Top-down open world sandbox that has you framed for your father’s murder, you’ll need to do whatever it takes to unveil the real culprit while evading the police at every turn
    • Steredenn

      • 2015
      • Side-scrolling rogue-like shoot-em-up in space, with sharp pixel graphics and chaotic boss battles in a never-ending combat for survival
    • Narcos: Rise of the Cartels

      • 2019
      • Turn-based action strategy based on the Netflix TV series, it has you exploring the first season from two sides with two unique stories
      • Unfortunately it seems to take the XCOM formula and water it way down, so while it seems tactical you can only move one person on each turn
    • White Night

      • 2015
      • Survival horror puzzle game where you explore the past of an old mansion in the 1930’s and solve puzzles of light and shadows in an entirely black and white setting.
  • Epic

    • Carcassonne

      • 2017
      • A competitive tile placement game of creating landscapes, claiming areas, and gaining points, with online play and a ton of replayability
    • Ticket to Ride

      • 2008
      • Another classic European-style board game that has you racing other players to build up your rail routes and reach your destinations
    • Pandemic was initially supposed to be included as well, but has actually been completely pulled from the Epic Games store. A statement from Epic said only that they’re shifting it to be free at a later date

Russia’s law against Apple devices seems to be proceeding according to plan, with the July 2020 deadline looming ever-closer

  • Back in episode 283 we talked about the new legislation passed in Russia by Vladimir Putin that would ban the sale of devices that don’t have a specific list of Russian apps pre-installed
  • This soon became known online as Russia’s law against Apple, as Apple has historically never allowed carrier bloatware or other apps to be bundled onto their devices- you get the same iOS experience regardless of where you buy your device
  • Well the list of required apps has finally been released and among them are government-produced apps for paying taxes and fines, as well as some banking, navigation, and social medial platforms with links to official government bodies
    • All of these apps have the potential to collect and send data related to finances, location, communications, and more, all without direct user permission
  • All in, it seems like a terrible idea for the privacy of any citizen of the world, and especially when Russia is behind it. If we see tech companies allowing this to go through I’m sure China won’t be too far behind
    • While Apple could leave the $3B market in Russia, and I’m sure a healthy grey or black market would crop up in the meantime, the $13B China would be a tougher proposition. We’ll just have to hope that companies don’t put a price tag on our privacy

Blizzard’s new Warcraft 3 remaster is so unpopular that they’re now offering instant refunds, but that’s still not enough for many players

  • The remastered Warcraft 3: Reforged launched late last week, meant to be a remake of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne expansion, introducing a revamped user interface and enhanced cutscenes, along with more dialogue and tweaks to the campaign to align it with the lore of WoW
  • Unfortunately the plans seem to have changed, with the UI almost identical to the old version, and though some voice lines have been tweaked there aren’t any massive changes. Even the cutscene updates are lackluster
  • Basically the only real update are the graphics- the visuals are sharper, more detailed, and more fluidly animated, but most of the improvements don’t make much difference unless you zoom too far in to be useful in an RTS setting
  • The biggest problem is that they didn’t introduce the game as a new version, but rather replaced the old version with a new client and game whether you own Reforged or not, just presenting a toggle in the settings to switch between the two
    • This wouldn’t be a big deal were it not for all the issues that come with the new client- connectivity problems, trouble getting into custom games, and a complete lack of competitive ranked game modes
    • Not to mention that the download now includes a ton of extra resources, totalling 27GB compared to the original sitting at just over 1GB, even if you don’t own Reforged
    • They even implemented a live public chat room that you get dumped in to at launch, similar to Overwatch, but with no option to report or mute users
      • Loading up custom maps just merges its chat in with the main open channel, so good luck coordinating with anyone
      • There’s also no native LAN support, so you’re stuck online even if you’re in the same room
    • Speaking of custom, custom campaigns are entirely gone
    • Oh, and if the game can’t get an online connection to Blizzard you can play single player, but it won’t save your progress even though the save files are all local anyway
  • The backlash has gotten to the point where, instead of the normal process of Blizzard looking in to what was wrong with your purchase and denying the refund if you’ve had the game for a while and been playing it, refunds are now being automatically and immediately approved
  • This doesn’t help users unable to get back to the old client through official means, but it at least offers players dissatisfied with Reforged a way to get their money back
    • For really dedicated players that want their old client back  there are a bunch of guides and videos details steps online, and they even support internet connectivity, but in the meantime they’ve actively removed features and made unwanted changes to an 18 year old game with no way to officially opt out

Amazon’s Ring home surveillance equipment is getting an update this week to address some, but not all, privacy concerns

  • The update creates a new control center in the app, adding options for two-factor authentication (which it now prompts for by default) and letting you see a list of all devices connected to your account
  • It also lets you opt out of receiving any requests from police for camera footage as a blanket setting, instead of having to refuse each request individually
    • This is a solid win for privacy with 897 police and sheriff departments listed as Ring partners with the ability to request those files
  • Unfortunately this still doesn’t fix everything, as footage uploaded to the Neighbors app has geographic info that lets you pinpoint a camera to the square inch, and they haven’t addressed the EFF report we talked about two weeks ago wherein they share a ton of information with marketing and analytics companies

Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service has left beta this week, and seems to actually fulfill many of the promises Google’s Stadia didn’t

  • All you have to do is download the app on a supported device, hook up your preferred controls, and connect to the servers. Then you can connect to a PC on the cloud and play one of hundreds of supported games from Steam, Epic Games, Battle.net, uPlay, Bethesda, and Origin (including many free to play titles)
    • The best part? They actually have a free tier right at launch!
  • Reporters at arsTechnica saw solid performance with minimal latency, to the point where they could play Sonic Mania without missing a jump or dash.
  • Whats more, because they basically just give you a virtual gaming PC you can go into a game’s full settings and tweak whatever settings you want to optimize the look and performance to wherever you want them
  • It’s never going to beat owning a gaming PC, but the ability to play these high-end PC games on a low-end Mac laptop is kind of bananas
    • It also supports Windows, mobile, and some smart TV’s, with eventual support for Chromebook coming later this year
  • Right now they’re offering two tiers:
    • Free, which gives you standard access and maximum one hour sessions (though you can immediately reconnect, you just might hit a queue depending on activity)
    • Founders, which is $5/month ($6.50 CAD) for priority access, extended sessions, ray-tracing gorgeousness, and a free three-month intro period
    • General streaming performance and game selection are the same between the two tiers, but the priority access will skip you to the head of the queue if the servers fill up
  • One big note on the game selection though is you don’t just load your existing game libraries to the service and to go town- you need to connect your other game store account, manually search for the game you want to play in GeoForce Now’s library tab, and add it to your account. Then you can launch those supported games through the GeForce Now app
    • There are also some loopholes where you can launch their Steam app and try starting games they don’t officially support, but for many games will hit errors when trying to run
    • There are even a bunch of supported games available through both Steam and Epic that can’t run from your Epic license, only Steam
  • All in all this is a pretty exciting time in gaming, with unparalleled access to this sort of thing as long as you have the internet connection to support it
    • Nvidia says that playing games will use about 15GB/hour, so be wary of your data caps!

Square Enix is releasing a brand new bundle-game this March called Kingdom Hearts All-in-One Package to bring together every game in the series up to KH3

  • The release history of this series is bonkers though. The All-in-One Package is pretty much just KH3 bundled with Kingdom Hearts: The Story So far
    • Which was Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix
    • Which is made up of Final Mix, Re: Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, 2 FInal Mix, Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and Re:code
  • It also includes 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, which itself is
    • Dream Drop Distance HD
    • 0.2 Birth by Sleep – a fragmentary passage
    • X Back Cover
  • But even with all that it’s still not a complete version, with the DLC for the third game, Re:Mind, still being sold separately

Here is a response to our call out for peoples Top 10 Games
I am going to try for the rest of the year to get everyone’s list!

Adam Blank (Remember the Game and Wrestling with Wrestling podcasts)
  • Super Mario World
  • Link to the Past
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Shovel Knight
  • Tetris
  • Donkey Kong County
  • Earthbound
  • Final Fantasy IV
  • Last of Us
  • Super Punch Out

Fake Magic card

  • Posted by Owner of Stony Plain Games & Collectibles, Lance
  • Lesson of the day!
    • You got to get up pretty early to fool this gaming shop owner!
  • Guy called me last night, want’s to know if I’ll trade in some expensive Magic the Gathering cards?
    • I ask him to come see me about it.
  • So today, said dude and his friend came in, looking to trade two MtG revised edition duel lands for shop credit?
    • (red flag-cash is king)
  • Right the way I could tell the cards looked ‘wrong’ in some way? I thought “these are proxies!” in my head.
    • (‘homemade’ copy of original version of an actual Magic card, used for gaming when one can’t afford the real thing. The guys that do proxies are getting VERY GOOD at it!)
  • They were pretty well done as the ‘rosette’ effect on the cards print when looked at under a x20 magnifier wasn’t far off an original, though of course there were differences enough even then to indicate it was a proxie.
    • (red flag 2)
      • A rosette effect is when in print, an image magnified looks like coloured dots in a flower pattern, and when observed nomally, look like a normal image. Its so the print colours of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, are printed in grids at different screen angles.
  • The print was too dark and that was the first thing to alert me as I first checked them out but one has to be sure!
    • (red flag 3)
  • Some incredible proxy cards come in from China that are quite hard to tell the difference unless, you know what you’re looking for! If you have old MtG cards you need verifying, bring them into me!
    • Nothing worse having a fraud version of an expensive card. In this instance the real version of this card was $375! Each! Did the dude know they were fake? IMO I’d say so.
    • He listed off the good stores in the city to buy singles, with their owners names, as well as the formats he played of the game, some of which are very expensive to play! (unless you use proxies lol!) So he had some pretty good knowledge of the game and community around Edmonton and surrounding area. When I eventually said these are proxies pal, he was ready with a slack apology but really didn’t seem surprised at all?
  • Which if you just lost $750 bucks worth of cards, you’d be a little more pissed than anything else. Wouldn’t you? Just be aware that there is an industry for printing proxy cards that are very close to the real thing except,….they are not! Fraud is fraud so don’t get ripped off if you happen to be in the market for some high end MtG cards!

     

Surveillance of UK citizens by private companies embedded on UK council websites

  • Article by Brave
  • A new report from Brave reveals that people seeking help for addiction, disability, and poverty on council websites are profiled by private companies in the UK
    • What is a council?
    • Councils provide a wide variety of services to their municipalities and enforce various federal, state and local laws for their communities. These services include public health, traffic, parking and animal management
  • Brave has uncovered widespread surveillance of UK citizens by private companies embedded on UK council websites.
    • None of the data collecting companies recorded in this study had received consent from the website visitor to lawfully process data.
  • These are the Quick Facts, that Brave provides:
    • Nearly all councils in the UK permit at least one company to learn about the behaviour of people visiting their websites.
    • People seeking information about disability, poverty, drugs and alcoholism services are profiled by data brokers on some council websites.
    • 198 council websites in the UK use the “real-time bidding” (RTB) form of advertising. Real-time bidding is the biggest data breach ever recorded in the UK. Though illegality is not in dispute, the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) has failed to act.
    • Google owns all five of the top embedded elements loaded by UK council websites, giving it the power to know what virtually anyone in the UK views on council sites.
    • Over of a quarter of the UK population is served by councils that embed Twitter, Facebook, and others on their websites, leaking data about what sensitive issues people read about to these companies.
    • 6.9 million people are served by councils that allow data broker LiveRamp to track people on their sites. Until recently, LiveRamp was part of the Acxiom Group, which sold data to Cambridge Analytica.
    • None of the data collecting companies recorded in this study had received consent from the website visitor to lawfully process data.
    • This report should spur Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, to finally enforce the GDPR. It is 17 months since formal evidence from Brave and complaints about breaches of data protection laws were filed before the ICO.
  • About Brave:

    • Brave is a new, private web browser. It has unmatched speed and battery life. And it also blocks data-grabbing ads and trackers.
    • 10 million people use Brave to make the web quicker and safer. You can download it for your phone or computer and browse the web with confidence.
    • Brave’s CEO is Brendan Eich, inventor of JavaScript, and co-founder of Mozilla/Firefox.

Google Maps Fooled by Man Who Used 99 Smartphones to Create a Fake Traffic Jam: Video

  • Article on Gadgets 360
  • Simon Weckert, a Berlin-based artist, used 99 smartphones and a hand cart to create ‘fake’ traffic jams in the German capital.
  • The slow pace of the hand cart and the fact that 99 phones were used caused Google Maps to believe that there were a lot of vehicles using a street that was actually empty.
    • Google uses this method to crowdsource traffic data the world over; smartphones in cars provide information to Google, including the speed at which they are moving, and how many smartphones are on that particular street.
  • If the pace is low and number is high, Google would show that segment of the street as red or maroon, suggesting that there is a traffic jam.
    • The video, that will be in the show notes on our website,  shows the streets on Google Maps gradually turning from green to maroon, suggesting that there was a traffic pileup on those streets.
    • Google’s navigation suggestions would then recommend that users avoid those streets, even though they were actually clear to drive on, apart from having to watch out for Weckert and his handcart.
  • Weckert hasn’t shared any further details, so it’s possible that this could have been faked entirely.
    • If it is authentic, Google should ideally be looking at ways to prevent such an exploit from being used, since this could have very real and physical implications on traffic movement.
    • In any case, don’t stop trusting Google Maps entirely; it’s not often that you have artists with 99 smartphones on a hand cart wandering around.

Tidbits

  • In an interesting prank / hack of Google Maps and their traffic data, Simon Weckert carted a wagon filled with 99 phones around simulating a traffic jam in the navigation app
    • One neat thing to note is the filtering Google uses for the data- if the phones all stopped moving entirely the traffic jam wouldn’t appear, and once a car using Google Maps drove past Google would see there was no jam and set it back to normal
  • Software engineer and blogger Robert Heaton took a trip down the rabbit hole recently and discovered that Wacom tablet drivers send a ton of identifying data when you use them, including details about every application you use and when you use them
    • Apparently the data is gathered for development purposes, but if you’re concerned about privacy and want to disable that you’ll need to open up the Wacom Desktop Center and disable the Wacom Experience Program
  • Allegedly leaked footage of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Flip hit Twitter this week, showing the clamshell device in action for the first time
    • Size-wise it reminds me of the Gameboy Advance SP, though flatter and wider, and fits better with what we’re expecting a folding screen on a smart phone to do- close and protect the screen
    • It also is rumoured to use special ultra-thin glass instead of the plastic used by the Galaxy Fold, which could prevent some of the display issues the Fold saw
  • Nintendo has announced that there won’t be any new Switch systems coming this year, quashing some rumours of the hoped for Switch Pro with increased power and improved performance
    • This is just going to widen the power gap already existing between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and perhaps prevent ports of newer titles to the Switch, with the PS5 and Xbox Series X due out later this year

We want to know

What video game soundtrack would you like to soundtrack your life?

 

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PS2J 279 News – Edited as Desired

Free games

  • Epic Games

    • Nuclear Throne

      • 2015
      • Top-down roguelike shooter that has you going through procedurally generated levels either solo or in co-op, working your way ever closer to the Nuclear Throne
    • RUINER

      • 2017
      • Top-down cyberpunk shooter where you play a silent, masked protagonist attempting to rescue your kidnapped brother from the failing conglomerate that controls the entire metropolis
  • Twitch

    • Double Cross

      • 2019
      • A Mega Man style action platformer that has you controling Zahra Sinclair, an agent of RIFT who can jump, walljump, and use her proton slinger to grab objects or swing herself around
    • Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition

      • 2015 remaster of the 2012 title
      • Action hack and slash RPG that has you exploring open-world regions, solving interactive puzzles, and kicking butt in a kind of God Of War / Ocarina Of Time hybrid
    • Planet Alpha

      • 2018
      • A side-scrolling adventure platformer where you’re pursued by relentless enemies and must harness the power of night and day as you struggle to survive
    • Sword Legacy: Omen

      • 2018
      • Turn-based tactical RPG in a re-imagined King Arthur mythos where you play a vengeful knight in search of the long-lost Excalibur
    • Turmoil

      • 2016
      • Simulation game inspired by the 19th century oil rush in North America, where you start from scratch to become a successful oil entrepreneur
  • Xbox One

    • Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter

      • 2016
      • Adventure mystery game in the same series as Crimes & Punishments, that has you exploring crime scenes and examining clues to link deductions and attempt to find the culprit
    • The Final Station

      • 2016
      • A side-scrolling shooter with a train simulator and exploration elements, where you have to balance taking care of the train and its passengers with exploring the apocalyptic world at each train station in order to keep moving
    • Star Wars Jedi Starfighter

      • 2002
      • A single-player or co-op spaceflight combat game set just prior to Attack of the Clones and during the Battle of Geonosis
    • Joy Ride Turbo

      • 2012
      • Combat kart racing game similar to the Mario Kart series
  • PS4

    • Nioh

      • 2017
      • Action RPG developed by Team Ninja where you play an Irish sailor pursuing a sorceror into the final battles of the Sengoku period in Japan
    • Outlast II

      • 2017
      • First person survival horror game that has you trying to find your wife while beset by a village of deranged end-times cultists with no way to fight back

AirPods Pro review

  • Very comfortable, though with the in-ear design it’s slightly harder to get them seated right (but I had pretty much perfect ears for the old style, so others may see it as an improvement), and the noise cancelling is solid
  • Transparency mode is ridiculously good, and it automatically switches to that when you’re just using one so you don’t have one blocked up ear
  • Announce messages seemed like a gimmick until I was busy on my computer and Siri read my incoming texts unobtrusively
  • The case looks bigger, but the just turned it on its side and stretched it a little, so it totally still fits in that 5th pocked on jeans
  • Also enjoying improvements from Gen 2, since I’m coming from G1- Hey Siri and wireless charging are handy to have
  • If you’re in the market for some new ANC headphones these are solid, but if you’ve got a good pair or are already using AirPods 2 then they’re a little harder to justify

Blizzard president J Allen Brack took a moment before the Blizzcon opening ceremonies to apologize for their punishment of professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung’s public support of Hong Kong’s protests

  • In the toothless statement he went on to say though that “Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone esports moment”
  • A few problems here:
    • It wasn’t a “tough Hearthstone esports moment”
    • He passed up another opportunity to “bring the world together” by saying anything at all in support of Hong Kong
    • He said nothing about the groveling they did to China on social media after the fact
    • And they still punished not only Blitzchung but also the commentators that were interviewing him

Overwatch 2 was announced, as expected, and we’ve got all the details

  • So it looks like this is kind of a pseudo-sequel; they’re releasing an updated game UI with revamped/remastered graphics and gameplay, along with multiple new heroes, maps, and a game mode, all for free for existing Overwatch players.
    • The new Push game mode, coming to quick play and competitive, has the two teams competing over a neutral payload that gets pushed in either direction based on who controls it
    • There will be four new maps: Toronto, Gothenburg, Monte Carlo, and Rio De Janerio
    • We also got a sneak peak at a couple of the upcoming heroes- Sojourn, the first Canadian OW hero that uses a cool gun that looks like a covenant sniper rifle, and Echo, an omnic that’s been teased in the base game for a while now
    • All skins, cosmetics, and other progress will carry over seamlessly
  • Where Overwatch 2 itself comes in to play is a new look for all heroes, a new co-op story mode and hero missions, and new hero talents for the PVE modes
    • The new modes seem to be permanent co-op modes like Halloween Terror or the Archives missions
    • Hero talents will have you levelling up and customizing hero abilities and ultimates to suit your playstyle
  • One nice thing with the new stuff coming is they can grow the canon inside of the game itself- right now we get lore dumps online but it has no real impact in-game
    • Overwatch re-forming and characters meeting or reuniting will have actual impact, instead of the current PVP grab-bag of characters having amusing interactions inside the dropship
  • If you want all of that stuff, you’ll have to buy the new… expansion, I guess? Plug-in? when it comes out at some point in the future for some currently undisclosed price
  • All in all it looks like they’re doing a fair amount to breath new life into the 3.5 year old shooter, though you’ll end up buying it again to see everything they have to offer

Tidbits

  • Real-time multiplayer is coming to Mario Kart Tour, but for now it will be limited to a beta offering only for Gold Pass subscribers
    • There aren’t any details on if it will require a subscription once it’s fully released, but if it does I can see it being a pretty sparse game with the subscription price costing more than their main console offering, Nintendo Switch Online
  • Sony’s PS4 is officially the second best selling console of all time, with about 2/3rds of the sales of the PS2
    • It’s doubtful that it’ll ever be number 1 though, as even though Sony says they’ll support it until at least 2021 the PS5 is expected to hit in 2020’s holiday season
  • DeepMind’s AlphaStar AI has officially hit Grandmaster status in Starcraft II, beating 99.8% of ranked human players with all three races, and I for one welcome our new robot overlords
  • Rudy Giuliani, one month after being named Trump’s cybersecurity advisor, apparently had to go to an Apple Store to wipe and restore his iPhone after getting it locked down from 10 unsuccessful passcode attempts
    • Many experts criticized the move, saying that there’s too much risk of employees gaining access to sensitive government information on the phone or in his iCloud backups
  • I don’t know how I missed this, but ghostwriter is getting rebooted on Apple TV+!
    • 90’s kids might remember the series running from 92 to 95 on PBS

Alan recommends QCode podcasts (Carrier, Edge of Sleep)

Literally Misleading

Last Week:

This Week:

 

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And talk to us in the comments!

Free games

  • Epic Games

    • Layers of Fear Masterpiece Edition

      • 2016
      • A psychological horror game where you control a disturbed painter trying to complete his magnum opus as he navigates through a victorian mansion, with disturbing secrets about the painter being discovered
    • Qube 2

      • 2018
      • Sequel to the original Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion, and a physics-based puzzle game, interacting with specific blocks in the world to solve puzzles and make it to the end of each level

Ajit Pai, chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission and owner of one of the most punchable faces in the world, seems to be making a case for the very same net neutrality regulations that he himself repealed

  • In an attempt to preempt state laws on net neutrality, Pai stated that each state having their own regulations could discourage companies or entrepreneurs from dealing with multiple layers of permissions and regulations as opposed to a uniform, well-established set of consistent regulations
  • What he didn’t mention is that the US had a uniform, well-established set of regulations before he eliminated those rules from the Obama admin and deregulated the broadband industry
  • On the plus side the US Court of Appeals ruled that Pai and the FCC lost the power to stop state laws when they deregulated it in the first place
  • So at this point things are at a stalemate- Pai seems to want to give more power to his corporate overlords, but in doing so he gave the power to the individual states that are actually interested in keeping the internet an open, neutral resource

Gamers excited for Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service launch this November 19th might be left out in the cold, even if they’ve pre-ordered

  • Initially Google said that the only way to play on day one would be to shell out $130 USD for a Founder’s Edition console, and while that’s kind of true it turns out that isn’t the whole story
  • Now that it’s sold out they’re now selling a new Premiere Edition, and it looks like neither package now guarantees the ability to play first thing on release day
  • Google now says that Founder’s Editions will only start arriving on the 19th, so if you were one of the first to pre-order yours may arrive but otherwise they’re all shipping first come, first served
    • Both the Founder’s and Premiere Editions are officially expected to be delivered within the first two weeks of launch, so unless you were quick on the draw it might be a lot closer to the end of the month before you’re up and running

The new Google Pixel 4 phone is taking heat this week for their facial authentication system unlocking even if the user’s eyes are closed or pointed elsewhere

  • Early leaks showed a “require eyes to be open” setting for face unlock, similar to Apple’s “Attention Aware” feature, but the released version can be unlocked by anyone that can hold the phone up to your sleeping face
  • In a statement to the BBC, Google said it would “continue to improve Face Unlock over time”, though the fix could be months away

We finally have conclusive evidence that the new Dark Mode on iPhones with OLED displays saves a decent amount of battery life

  • Tests run by YouTube channel PhoneBuff, using robotic arms to interact with two iPhone XS Maxes, had the device using light mode dying when the dark mode iPhone had 30% battery still remaining
  • This only applies to OLED phones, meaning the X, XS, and 11 Pro phones, and can depend on your brightness settings, but it’s still a measurable benefit
    • OLED phones actually completely turn off any pixels that are showing solid black, while LCD displays are uniformly lit and still send power to every pixel regardless of what’s being shown
  • This also works as a proof-of-concept for saving battery on OLED Android phones, though that would need another batch of testing to confirm

HARP 3D printer is one step closer to getting the Replicator

  • Researchers at Northwestern University have overcome issues around overheating
    • They have developed HARP, a 3D printer claimed to produce an object the size of an adult human in two hours.
  • Northwestern’s Chad Mirkin, who led the product’s development saidA limitation of resin-based 3D printers is that they generate a lot of heat when running at fast speeds, leading to dangerously hot surface temperatures and potential cracks and deformations in printed parts.
    • 3D printing is conceptually powerful but has been limited practically
    • If we could print fast without limitations on materials and size, we could revolutionise manufacturing. HARP is poised to do that.”
  • Mirkin predicts HARP, will be available commercially in the next 18 months
  • How does it print this fast?
    • HARP prints vertically and uses projected ultraviolet light to cure the liquid resins into hardened plastic
    • This process can print pieces that are hard, elastic or ceramic
    • These continually printed parts are said to be mechanically robust and can be used in a wide range of products that include cars and aircraft.
  • This is similar to the Form Labs 3D printer I looked into when I thought I was going to buy a 3D printer
    • The benefit versus other types of printing
      • You can make translucent objects
      • And you can achieve higher detail
  • However, a limitation of resin-based 3D printers is that they generate a lot of heat when running at fast speeds
    • which leads to dangerously hot surface temperatures and potential cracks and deformations in printed parts
    • “When these printers run at high speeds, a great deal of heat is generated from the polymerisation of the resin,” Walker said in a statement. “They have no way to dissipate it.”
  • HARP bypasses this problem with a non-stick liquid that behaves like liquid Teflon
    • It projects light through a window to solidify resin on top of a vertically moving plate
    • The liquid Teflon flows over the window to remove heat and then circulates it through a cooling unit.
  • “The interface is also non-stick, which keeps the resin from adhering to the printer itself,” Hedrick added.
    • “This increases the printer’s speed by a hundredfold because the parts do not have to be repeatedly cleaved from the bottom of the print-vat.”
  • Although 3D printing is transitioning from prototyping to manufacturing,
    • Current 3D printers’ size and speed have limited them to small-batch production
    • HARP is claimed to be the first printer that can handle large batches and large parts in addition to small parts.
  • “When you can print fast and large, it can really change the way we think about manufacturing,” Mirkin said.
    • “With HARP, you can build anything you want without moulds and without a warehouse full of parts. You can print anything you can imagine on-demand.”
    • While other print technologies have slowed down or reduced their resolution in order to print large parts, HARP does not make such concessions.
  • “Obviously there are many types of 3D printers out there – you see printers making buildings, bridges and car bodies, and conversely you see printers that can make small parts at very high resolutions,” Walker said.
    • “We’re excited because this is the largest and highest throughput printer in its class.”
  • HARP uses high-resolution light-patterning to achieve ready-to-use parts without extensive post-processing
    • The result, the university claims, is a commercially viable route to the manufacturing of consumer goods.

Fallout 76 Subscription?

  • Fallout 1st is a $100-a-year subscription-based service
    • Gives its members access to several benefits not available to others
      • Play on a private world with only your friends
      • unlimited storage space in the Scrapbox
      • a Survival Tent for fast traveling
      • Monthly Atoms, an exclusive outfit
      • Extra icons and emotes
      • And special sales not available to other players will also appear periodically.
  • This gives players what they have been asking for
    • But at a cost $12.99 a month, its $3 more than XBox Game Pass
      • And Gamepass has Fallout New Vegas, which seems to be most fans favorite
      • And it has Outerwords, a new open world game with far more options than Fallout 76
    • This is a bad sign from Bethesda
      • It shows that they are hearing what players want
      • But are out of touch, or too greedy to implement them fairly

Tidbits

  • Good news for anyone jumping on the 5G bandwagon- Verizon has managed to deploy coverage to certain seating areas in three different NBA arenas!
    • The coverage is far from complete, and there’s no word on the speeds being offered, but if you’re one of the people that Verizon has convinced to pay extra money then you might potentially see a benefit in parts of those arenas
  • Facebook may be forced to pay up to $35B in a class action lawsuit for users in Illinois, arguing that Facebook’s collection of users’ faces for tagging purposes violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act
    • The law requires that businesses gather consent from state residents before their biometric data is collected or used, and involves fines up to $5,000 for each of the 7M violations
  • In some awkward timing with tensions between China and Hong Kong, and the HKMap.Live app mess, Tim Cook has been named chairman of a Chinese university’s school of economics and management
  • Lastly some good news for gamers- Activision and Infinity Ward have announced that there will be no loot box system in the upcoming Modern Warfare game, and all weapons and functional attachments will be unlocked strictly through gameplay
    • There will be a battle pass system for aesthetics, with both free and premium streams, but that will let players see the content they’re earning or buying beforehand

Alan recommends silicone stretch lids

 

Literally Misleading

Last Week:

Movie – Artist tries his best against the wishes of his grandfather and clingy aunts (Kubo and the Two Strings)

This Week:

Thanks to reddit user – MissBarker93
Movie – Man Survives thanks to his own feces

 

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